Fall in Austin marks the end of mosquito season — thank goodness. But other pests in Central Texas are on the job 365 days out of the year. As your attention turns from the biting and stinging insects of summer, don’t forget the other critters that can turn up in your home and cause damage. Here are some of the pests to look out for as the temperatures fall in Austin.
The saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” is, unfortunately, true when it comes to cockroaches. If you’ve lived in Texas long enough, you’ve no doubt watched a giant cockroach come marching out of a vent or a drain and across the wall or floor. Yes, they’re disgusting!
Keeping your home extra clean and other pest prevention tips are important in keeping the cockroach population down. But even the most fastidious home won’t completely prevent the bugs from coming in — especially in the fall and the spring. This is where having pest pros is key. You want someone to come out and spray to keep these unwelcome houseguests out.
Texas is home to more than 250 species of ants, and like most Texans, you’ve likely come across a few of them. Fire ants — may be the most notorious of the bunch — tend to be an outdoor problem – and are most common in the hot season.
The ants that prefer the indoors, like sugar ants and crazy ants, can cause the biggest headaches in the fall and winter. Crazy ants are a particular problem — an invasive species that got a foothold along the Gulf Coast and have been found in Travis County in recent years. Depending on the species, ants will do everything from invading your home in search of something sweet to eat to chewing up your electrical system. Carpenter ants can do as much, if not more, damage than termites. They’re not only a nuisance but an expensive problem to correct.
Keeping your place clean and food put away helps a lot, as does regular seasonal spraying. Soapy water, white vinegar, and boiling water are some quick, easy non-chemical ways to kill ants. Insecticides from a home improvement store can stop some ants in their tracks. But some sprays can make the problem worse, especially when it comes to carpenter ants. The drop in temperatures can help you get a handle on some ants — a lot of the workers die, leaving behind a few along with their queen. If you suspect a serious ant infestation, it may not be a DIY project.
While you’re busy battling the very visible cockroaches and ants, some pests may be doing the worst damage out of sight. Termites can destroy the guts of your house — and in Austin, that’s an expensive pest. Some signs of infestation include tiny mud tubes on foundation walls or slabs and utility openings. The damage to wooden structures may not be immediately obvious. A professional inspection is a must, and professional pest control will put a stop to any new damage.
You can prevent a termite invasion by denying them access to wood, moisture, and shelter. This includes making sure all wood that touches soil is pressure treated. Cut shrubs and dense growth away from your house to make visual inspections easier and set wooden porches and posts on concrete blocks, away from the soil where possible.
Food and Fabric Beetles
You’ve probably seen these guys before — the tiny beetles that turn up in that opened bag of flour or the mystery invaders that eat holes in your fabrics. Food and fabric beetles leave behind lots of damage. If you see bugs in your flour, or pet food, remember they feed on whatever they find, and they also lay eggs in your food. The quickest way to deal with these pests is to throw away everything they infest. In some cases, that includes unopened packages of foods, like cereals, grains, or flour. Vacuum up any spilled food and wipe any crumbs away. Caulk the corners of your cupboards and pantry — and most importantly, use the dried food you buy within a few months.
Fabric pests can target leather, woven fabrics, and feathers, depending on the species. If you don’t want to throw away the infested items, washing or dry cleaning them will help eliminate beetles. Freezing items for up to two weeks can also kill pests without doing a lot of damage. Finally, use cedar blocks or mothballs to store clothing and fabric.
Fall in Austin is a wonderful time, and we’re lucky that it slows down the pests. But the climate here is mild enough that the pests rarely die off or go away completely, so you want to be on your guard for those critters looking for food and comfort in your home.
Richard Gillespie is an exterminator whose interest in household and landscape pests began as a child when he would crank up the radio to hear “I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes.” He prides himself on practicing humane and eco-friendly pest control – unless he finds a rat. Then, all bets are off.